by Drew Baumgartner
This article will contain SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
Superheroes don’t get endings. They might die, sure, but are inevitably resurrected months, years, or decades down the line. And they’re brought back for the same reason superheroes don’t get endings: there’s always another story to tell (and another dollar to be made telling it). Fans may sometimes get jaded about this — especially when a hero is killed off for the umpteenth time — but that lack of closure keeps superheroes in a holding pattern in the middle of the hero’s journey. They may have momentary successes, sure, but they never get to kick up their heels at the end of a career well-served. You know, unless you can find some kind of alternate universe/timeline workaround that allows your hero some sense of closure while still allowing him to carry on the fight tomorrow. That’s exactly the kind of workaround Mark Waid and Chris Samnee cook up in Captain America 700, giving Steve the kind of heroic end he can only have if there’s some kind of trick.
Lest “trick” sound like I didn’t enjoy this issue, I should clarify that I’m absolutely in love with the weird little time loop that blips itself out of existence. It allows them to not only allow Steve to make the ultimate sacrifice, but to do so after taking him to his absolute limit. And I think it’s that limit that really speaks volumes about this character. I mean, we already know that he would proudly die to save his country (he kinda sorta has a few times already), so the more revealing piece here is what drives him to embrace the “hail mary” plan that was heretofore too risky to try.
“Hope is not a plan.” It’s a line that returns at the issue’s climax (with an important addition), but the vital information is that hope kind of still is the plan. I mean, what is a “hail mary” other than a last hope? This isn’t about running out of hope, but recognizing that hope isn’t a panacea. That is, Cap’s refusal to lose is an asset in many situations, but is a straight-up liability in a no-win scenario. This is Steve’s Kobayashi Maru, an his strategy is to turn it into the kind of situation he can win. He has to rein the scope of this war down to one watershed battle, and fortunately, Banner has already cooked up a way to get him to the one he already missed.
And, of course, sometimes heroes succeed by sacrificing themselves for the cause. There’s really no other way for Steve to go, and this particular choice offers more depth to the sacrifice than jumping in front of the president or onto a live grenade ever could. Steve knows that if he doesn’t win this battle, that America as he knows it will fall into disarray, leaving him in a place where he knows he can’t win. It allows him to prove that a last hope is still hope, and to remind us that nobody can win without that. That’s a message sent straight to our hearts, even if the altered timeline reduces it to a paradoxical loop that the surviving Cap will never know about. He doesn’t need to — we’ve seen what he’s made of.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?